Although Virginia may not hold as much filmmaking prestige as Hollywood, Atlanta and even Wilmington, it has still served as the backdrop for a number of notable films and television shows.
The next time you settle in for a movie night, consider watching one of these six options that were filmed right here in the commonwealth.
Perhaps one of the most obvious choices to appear on this list is 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. It chronicles the love story of “Baby,” who is on vacation with her family, and Johnny, a dance instructor.
Mountain Lake Lodge in the New River Valley serves as a stand in for the fictional Kellerman Resort in the New York Catskills.
Even though the film was shot there more than 35 years ago, the film’s legacy is still alive and well at the lodge. Visitors can partake in a number of outdoor activities that were portrayed in the film. Additionally, the lodge holds special themed weekends that include film tours, dance instruction and celebrations of all things “Dirty Dancing.”
The lodge was also featured in the 2022 FOX celebrity dance competition “The Real Dirty Dancing.”
“National Treasure: Book of Secrets”
Location: Fairfax County
Although the 2007 Nicholas Cage film “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” has a fast-paced plot that covers a lot of geography, including Mount Rushmore, Virginia’s own Mount Vernon is prominently featured in several crucial scenes.
George Washington’s home was turned into a Hollywood film set for two weeks in April of 2007 to complete filming for a series of scenes that lasted roughly 10 minutes in which Ben Gates crashes a party for the current president and lures him into the basement of the mansion.
Those wanting to trace the steps of Gates can go on the National Treasure Tour at Mount Vernon. The 60-minute behind-the-scenes tour shows how the stately 18th century home was utilized in the film.
The east lawn of the estate was also featured in a scene from the 1993 Denzel Washington film “The Pelican Brief.” In the scene, Washington, who plays Gray Grantham in the adaptation of the John Grisham novel, and John Lithgow, who plays Smith Keen, walk across the lawn while updating each other on new information.
Location: Smith Mountain Lake
Some films are simply shot in Virginia, while others are set here. The 2012 Hallmark film “Lake Effects” is an example of the latter. In fact, it can be argued that Smith Mountain Lake is one of the central characters, alongside Jane Seymour and Scottie Thompson.
The plot centers on a character who left her home but is called back by a sudden event. Upon her return, she starts to see the value in where she’s from.
Due to it being an independent film, many locals contributed their time and talents to get the film across the finish line.
If you visit the lake after watching the film, you’ll likely recognize many of the locations. The Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival is even depicted in a scene.
The lake also served as the principal backdrop of the 1990 Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss film “What About Bob?”
“Big Stone Gap”
Location: Big Stone Gap
It should come as no surprise that the 2014 Ashley Judd film “Big Stone Gap” was filmed entirely in the quaint, Victorian-era town of Big Stone Gap.
If you enjoy the film, you can visit the place that inspired the Adriana Trigiani book that the film is based on and go on a tour of the town to see the locations where some of the scenes were shot.
“Visitors have flocked to Big Stone Gap since the movie’s release searching out various locations, such as Mutual’s Pharmacy (now Curklin’s), The Bookmobile, the Drama Stage, and Carmine’s (now the Visitor’s Center), which were featured prominently in the film,” according to the town.
Locations: Central and Coastal Virginia
The 2019 biopic of Harriet Tubman, who is portrayed by Cynthia Erivo, chronicles her escape from slavery on through her work to free slaves on the Underground Railroad.
Those in the central and coastal parts of the commonwealth will likely spot a number of filming locations, including Richmond, Powhatan, Cumberland, Petersburg and Mathews. Berkley Plantation, Old Towne Petersburg, Three Lakes Park and Nature Center and Williams Wharf Landing all make appearances, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
Check out this YouTube video from the corporation to learn more about the making of the film during the fall and winter of 2018.
If you’re interested in learning more about Underground Railroad locations in Virginia, the National Park Service maintains a list, which includes Bruin’s Slave Jail in Alexandria and Fort Monroe in Richmond.
Locations: Clifton Forge and Central Virginia
The 2021 Hulu limited series “Dopesick,” which starred Michael Keaton, received quite a bit of local news coverage when it was filmed in the commonwealth the previous year.
The series depicts the impact opioid addiction can have, including the harm it caused to a small Virginia community.
Central Virginia natives may recognize a number of locations in the show, including the Canal Walk, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Virginia War Memorial and The Estate at River Run.
Some Clifton Forge landmarks, like Downtown Clifton Forge, Jackson River and the Historic Masonic Theatre, also make an appearance.
Another reason to watch the series is that it’s based on the book “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America” by Beth Macy, a Roanoke resident and former Roanoke Times journalist.